In September last year, Mum and I visited Oahu, Hawaii. I was at work for the first couple of days, but afterwards we took a few days to explore the island. Here are five things to do in Honolulu in three days.
We were staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort which is in prime position, right on the beach. On Friday evening we caught the Hilton’s regular start-the-weekend fireworks display.
This is the main point of Waikiki. During the week we spent plenty of time walking along the beach. We also swam and snorkeled a bit but didn’t see very much.
Another important thing to do in Waikiki is get food from a food truck. Gilligan’s Beach Shack food truck was near to the hotel and we partook of lunch and dinner there on different days. I can report that the coconut shrimp, and fish and chips, were excellent.
Sunset viewing is a must in Waikiki. With the sun setting over the water, there’s a good chance you will see a green flash – as we did one night.
Another activity for sunset is a cocktail at the Royal Hawaiian’s Mai Tai Bar. This is a grand old hotel, open and breezy in the way tropical hotels usually are. There is a patio overlooking the beach where we enjoyed Mai Tais (of course). They were very strong!
There are a lot of random places in Waikiki where Hula dancers perform – outside shops, at the airport, and at hotels. You won’t have to go far for a free display.
Diamond Head is one of the key landmarks of Honolulu. After I finished work on Saturday afternoon, Mum and I made an attempt to hike the summit. For some reason the traffic in Honolulu that evening was appalling. Leaving the hotel at about 4pm, it took us over an hour for a journey that should’ve taken 25 minutes. When we finally arrived at the Diamond Head entrance there was a big sign saying “Do not start walking after 4:30pm” and of course we were too late. Not willing to risk it, we decided to come back the next day.
Since it had taken such an effort to get there, we walked around to the Diamond Head lookout. The walk was very nice and the views were spectacular, but it was a slight ordeal getting home (lack of cell reception/irregular buses/getting dark).
The next day, Sunday, we decided to tackle Diamond Head again – we were on the 8am bus for a very quick ride and a smooth walk to the base. It wasn’t too hot though it was already quite busy. The hike was challenging but not impossible, although the “99 steps” gave us a run for our money. The views at the top was breathtaking and well worth it.
Historic Downtown Honolulu
After our successful Diamond Head re-do, that afternoon we caught another bus into Historic downtown Honolulu. We followed the “The Capitol District” tour in the app GPS My City. Because it was Sunday, it was very quiet, but it gave us a chance to look at different landmarks in relative peace.
We started at the Iolani Palace, and on our tour we saw the Aliiolani Hale and the King Kamehameha statue, and the Hawaii State Capitol building among other places. The guide was quite informative – for example, we learned that the State Capitol was designed to “evoke Hawaii and its natural features” including representations of the ocean, volcanoes, coconut trees, the primary islands, the sun and the moon. The building lacks the usual central dome/rotunda of other state capitol buildings: instead this area is left open to the sky.
A popular activity on Oahu is an Island Tour. We chose Hawaii Turtle Tours because of their options to go snorkeling and see turtles.
We met out guide, Brock, at 7:30am. We picked up a few other people until there were about 20 of us on the bus. The day was pretty much non-stop:
- Diamond Head Lookout (been there!)
- Halona Blowhole – we waited patiently for the right wave to see the awesome blowhole (see video below)
- Makapuu Lookout
- Tropical Farm – a macadamia nut farm where there was free coffee.
- The windward coastline to Kualoa Beach Park and Chinaman’s Hat.
- Sunset Beach. The surf wasn’t that impressive that day, but we did get rained on.
- Tsue Farm for a delicious lunch.
- A nearby beach for swimming with turtles. We started by walking on the beach and soon came across a turtle just hanging out on the sand. Our guide told us to not get within 5ft of it but lots of people from other buses were taking selfies right next to it. I did get in the water for a while but it was too rough and cloudy to see anything. From the shore I did see a turtle in the water, and others swam out with it.
- The Dole Plantation, a must-see for all tour buses on the island. We got a Pineapple Whip and a Pineapple smoothie and had a look around the pineapple-themed gift shop.
- We arrived back in Waikiki by about 4pm.
Overall the tour was a great experience – our guide was very good and we felt like we saw all the highlights of the island.
Pearl Harbor Memorial
On our last day in Honolulu we went to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, aka the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
My knowledge of this event that brought the U.S. into the Second World War was minimal prior to our visit. The museum took us through what the island was like before the event, how the war shaped it, the actual day, and what happened after. It was extremely well done, and very easy to engage with at a simple or detailed level, depending on what you were interested in.
The final part of the experience is a boat ride to the memorial which sits over the USS Arizona. To go on this, you have to reserve a timed ticket but unfortunately on our visit this part of the memorial was closed due to repairs. We still went on a boat which circled nearby and we listened to an explanation from the boat’s captain.
I highly recommend this museum to visit, even if you’re not into war history.
It’s hard to leave such a beautiful place!